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Heartbreak House (eBook)

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George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. Before becoming a playwright he wrote music and literary criticism. Shaw used his writing to attack social problems such as education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. Shaw was particularly conscious of the exploitation of the working class. Heartbreak House is set in England during a house pa George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. Before becoming a playwright he wrote music and literary criticism. Shaw used his writing to attack social problems such as education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. Shaw was particularly conscious of the exploitation of the working class. Heartbreak House is set in England during a house party at the eccentric upper-class household of the Stover family. This comedy of manners takes a probing look at the conflict between old-fashioned idealism and the realities of the modern age.


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George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. Before becoming a playwright he wrote music and literary criticism. Shaw used his writing to attack social problems such as education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. Shaw was particularly conscious of the exploitation of the working class. Heartbreak House is set in England during a house pa George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. Before becoming a playwright he wrote music and literary criticism. Shaw used his writing to attack social problems such as education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. Shaw was particularly conscious of the exploitation of the working class. Heartbreak House is set in England during a house party at the eccentric upper-class household of the Stover family. This comedy of manners takes a probing look at the conflict between old-fashioned idealism and the realities of the modern age.

30 review for Heartbreak House (eBook)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Buck

    1 pint of Amsterdam Blonde 2 bottles of Sleeman’s Cream Ale 2 gin and tonics 3 shots of rye on the rocks 1 glass of champagne 1 bottle of Moosehead Such was my alcohol consumption this New Year’s Eve. And yet, as you can plainly see, I remain strangely, depressingly lucid, but with a haunting premonition of a bloated, gassy hangover and a sort of lingering foretaste of a vomitous breakfast in a greasy spoon among the pallid reflections of last night’s beautifu 1 pint of Amsterdam Blonde 2 bottles of Sleeman’s Cream Ale 2 gin and tonics 3 shots of rye on the rocks 1 glass of champagne 1 bottle of Moosehead Such was my alcohol consumption this New Year’s Eve. And yet, as you can plainly see, I remain strangely, depressingly lucid, but with a haunting premonition of a bloated, gassy hangover and a sort of lingering foretaste of a vomitous breakfast in a greasy spoon among the pallid reflections of last night’s beautiful young things, some of them still wearing the same clingy outfits they sported so proudly, so hopefully in the club a few hours before. In other words, it’s time for Drunk Book Review, a curious GR sub-genre pioneered (to the best of my knowledge) by that gifted and exemplary Minnesotan, Ceridwen C. Well, then. Heartbreak House. Not that it’s any of your business, but I came home alone tonight, as I often do, being shy and introverted and basically unfit for human intercourse (in the old sense; look it up, dimwits) so I’m not in the best frame of mind to comment on this play, which is loquacious, expansive and suffused with sex. I’m not sure where Shaw stood on the sexuality continuum, and it doesn’t matter, because the cynical old rogue knew a thing or two about men and, more surprisingly, three or four things about women (not all of them nice). His men are magnificent bastards. They stride around being handsome, telling lies, doing stuff. But deep down, they’re confused, sentimental creatures. The women, however. Wow. Not so much. Fucking ice water in their veins. They’ll smile and flirt and pout but, whatever you do, don’t be around when they decide to get vicious. So, how much of this is accurate and how much an amalgam of Edwardian gender stereotypes and Shaw’s own peculiar hang-ups? You’re asking the wrong guy, citizen. What is this, a call-in show? Work it out for yourselves. Actually, the whole war-of-the-sexes thing is probably the least interesting angle of this multi-faceted play. But if I told you it was a tragic Chekhovian farce transplanted to the English countryside in which brilliant, frivolous people demonstrate the crushing futility of human existence—that wouldn’t be much of a hook, would it? It’s quarter to six in the morning where I am and my buzz is pretty much gone. Drunk Book Review has morphed into Tired and Crapulous Book Review (hey, new trend!). I’m going to take a pee and an aspirin (I do everything zeugmatically at this hour) and subside gratefully into the old queen size. And tomorrow? It’s a new year, yes, but will it be a new day? We shall see. Be cool, everyone, but care.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

    Part of my reading goals for 2018 is to revisit Shaw. I choose Heartbreak House as my starting point, and was not disappointed. To sum it up ~~ A rich Shavian comedy about human folly and the charming and self-absorbed gentry (which would soon give way to an uncharming and self-absorbed celebrity culture), with nods to Wilde. No one quite does love triangles like Shaw. Looking forward to exploring more of the Shavian wit. "How is this going to end?" "It won't end. Life goes on."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Manik Sukoco

    Bernard Shaw's 1919 play, "Heartbreak House," is a bitterly angry black comedy - a satire against a British imperial culture in the first two decades of the 20th century that gave rise to the excesses of the first World War, and which could (and would) do a lot worse if given the chance. Consciously drawing on a healthy and proud tradition of Irish satirists, including Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde, Shaw brings us into a declining English country house, which seems to be run by no one in partic Bernard Shaw's 1919 play, "Heartbreak House," is a bitterly angry black comedy - a satire against a British imperial culture in the first two decades of the 20th century that gave rise to the excesses of the first World War, and which could (and would) do a lot worse if given the chance. Consciously drawing on a healthy and proud tradition of Irish satirists, including Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde, Shaw brings us into a declining English country house, which seems to be run by no one in particular for a party of apocalyptic (in)significance. The house is home to the Shotover family, the eighty-eight year old patriarch Captain Shotover, his daughter, Hesione Hushabye, and her husband Hector. Over the course of three acts, Shaw explores the 'fascinating' qualities and inhabitants of the boat-like house, and its broader implications as a kind of ship of state. The play opens as a young woman, Ellie Dunn, arrives at the house, ostensibly the guest of Hesione. With no one to greet her, and her bags left on the front porch of the house, Ellie finds her way into the boat-like drawing room, where she meets the indefatigable Nurse Guinness, and the inscrutable Captain Shotover, who is in the midst of his latest plan to usefully dispose of the hoard of dynamite he keeps in the garden. Gradually, the party fills out as Hesione, Hector, Lady Utterword (nee Shotover), Randall Utterword (the melancholy brother-in-law), Mazzini Dunn (soldier of freedom and Ellie's father), and Boss Mangan (capitalist and Ellie's intended) arrive at this bizarre house. Hesione plans to break off Ellie's engagement to the much older Mangan, and free her to follow the course of romance, while Utterwood and Hector variously pursue their sister-in-law. Of course, Shaw does not let his characters, nor his audience, off with a simple comedy of manners. Shaw uses the play to expose the play of civilization, in which we all have a part, but with much more comic viciousness than Wilde, and with (possibly) more brute directness than Swift. The most explicit butt of Shaw's circuitous and rapid-fire dialogues is Mangan, whose gruff capitalist demeanor and pursuit of money and reputation is ultimately the guidepost of society as Shaw envisions it. As the lowest common denominator, Mangan's crudity reflects upwards at the socially climbing Ellie, the egregious nonchalance of Hesione, and the almost intentional insanity of Captain Shotover. Shaw implies that if Mangan and his ilk are running the show, then everyone who is not working to change it is complicit in its depredations. Listless bohemians, like Hesione and Hector, give the lie to their apparent graces, in an effort to maintain sanity in the midst of their perpetual confinement with each other. Lady Utterword's complaisance belies her loveless existence, and Mazzini Dunn's servility is the mark of an idealist who has given up his ideals in favor of subsistence. Is the refinement we everyday pretend to, nothing more than a thin veneer for the animal instincts that, if broached, would expose us as Swiftian Yahoos, as Shaw implies in his Preface, or as mere children, left in charge of ever more dangerous means of annihilating everyone and everything? The tool of satire, in the hands of a master like Shaw, compels us to examine our own lives, and the ways we live them. Does Shaw call us to action, or merely to honest self-reflection? Either way, even at this late date, nearly a century later, we are still living in "Heartbreak House" - and Shaw's challenge to us is more urgent than ever. Ultimately, Shaw's message is that we are not dead yet - only asleep; can we awaken before it is too late? If we are monstrous enough to blow up the preacher's house, in the early 20th century or the early 21st, then each of us must be our own Savior - a notion which should be as empowering as it is horrifying.

  4. 5 out of 5

    El

    I was pleasantly surprised to open this play and find the author's Preface which was not entirely about the play itself. Refreshing, really, because those pesky Prefaces and Introductions can contain spoilers which leads to the reader feeling pretty bummed out. But then I read the Goodreads description of the book and was spoiled anyway because whoever wrote it SUCKS. Do not be discouraged by the Preface. I almost was because it took me three nights just to read it which, in the long I was pleasantly surprised to open this play and find the author's Preface which was not entirely about the play itself. Refreshing, really, because those pesky Prefaces and Introductions can contain spoilers which leads to the reader feeling pretty bummed out. But then I read the Goodreads description of the book and was spoiled anyway because whoever wrote it SUCKS. Do not be discouraged by the Preface. I almost was because it took me three nights just to read it which, in the long run, is silly since I read two and a half acts of the actual play just today in one sitting. But Shaw had a lot of feelings and he wanted to express them all, whether they were about his play, or about the war, or about demoralization, or about the judicial system... dude, just shut up and write a book like normal people. The play itself was actually okay. I'm not a great play-reader, which is part of the reason I changed my major from Theater in college in the first place. I don't mind the rest of the process, but I tend to feel plays should be performed and not read. And now that I'm way out of practice with the whole thing, reading a play at times can be somewhat torturous. I had trouble getting into this play - I'd say it started to come together for me somewhere in the second Act and made all of its sense in the third. And then my edition included the General Introduction to Shaw and the Introduction to the play itself, and some Notes, and all of it was done well enough that the play really came together and I gained a better appreciation for it in the end. Had I actually been able to see a performance of the play, which I've never had the opportunity, I have a feeling the appreciation would have been immediate.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ira Bespalova

    The only reason I gave it four stars is that I'm not into plays very much. Still I realize that the book is one of the greatest of its time with loads of genuinely funny dialogs and monologues and effervescent jokes. The action takes place on the eve of World War I. And as it had been previously mentioned "lampoons British society as it blithely sinks towards disaster". Somehow I don't quite agree with that. Even though the story deals with Britain and the British, the whole situation, the The only reason I gave it four stars is that I'm not into plays very much. Still I realize that the book is one of the greatest of its time with loads of genuinely funny dialogs and monologues and effervescent jokes. The action takes place on the eve of World War I. And as it had been previously mentioned "lampoons British society as it blithely sinks towards disaster". Somehow I don't quite agree with that. Even though the story deals with Britain and the British, the whole situation, the relationships between those people can be projected into other countries and cultures as well. The author wanted to point out the ignorance and indifference showed by the upper class to the World War I and its consequences. The main issues of the play are self-indulgence and lack of understanding of the high-class characters. I guess it's true for most other countries. The rich lived not noticing what was happening around. This fact has led to many conflicts throughout the history. Apart from animate characters there is an inanimate one, that is the House which is often called the Ship in the play. The ship must be guided properly by sane people, the same stands for the society. It's an interesting metaphor. It's not new though. The ship of state is a famous metaphor put by Plato. It implies that the steering of a ship is just like any other "craft" or profession - in particular, that of a politician. The book is definitely worth reading, it gives a lot of food for thought.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    This play starts out as a traditional British class comedy, then the twist happen. The twist is that [SPOILER ALERT:] the rest of the book is awful. Just consider the dialogue that ends the first act: CAPTAIN SHOTOVER: What a house! What a daughter! MRS HUSHABYE: What a father! HECTOR: What a husband! MH: What do men want? They have their food, their firesides, their clothes mended, and our love at the end of the day. Why are they not satisfied? Why do they envy us the pain w This play starts out as a traditional British class comedy, then the twist happen. The twist is that [SPOILER ALERT:] the rest of the book is awful. Just consider the dialogue that ends the first act: CAPTAIN SHOTOVER: What a house! What a daughter! MRS HUSHABYE: What a father! HECTOR: What a husband! MH: What do men want? They have their food, their firesides, their clothes mended, and our love at the end of the day. Why are they not satisfied? Why do they envy us the pain with which we bring them into the world, and make strange dangers and torments for themselves to be even with us? CS: I builded a house for my daughters, and opened the doors thereof, That men might come for their choosing, and their betters spring from their love; But one of them married a numskull; H: [taking up the rhythm:] The other a liar wed; MH: And now must she lie beside him, even as she made her bed. And there are whole acts left after that passage. While I found the essay that sets up the play better written, its tone of I-know-people-who-fought-in-the-war-had-it-worse-than-those-on-the-home-front-but-nobody-has-suffered-more-than-me-because-I-HAD-TO-WRITE-PLAYS was infuriating.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Joseph

    In Heartbreak House, a handful of well attired, and dishonest, men and striking, not to mention cunning, women, are thrown together in the nautically inspired household of an eccentric old captain. Each person's selfishness slowly comes to the forefront and what we once thought about them at the start is turned on its head. The play is an interesting perusal into the meaningless pursuits in pre-war England.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mark Harris

    Interesting. I don't think I quite get it. The first 1/3 of the book is political essays about WWI and other topics. The second 2/3 is a rather dark and odd (tragi-)comedy of manners involving quite a few characters to keep track of. I'm sure I'd benefit from seeing the play performed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ray LaManna

    This play is partly a comedy about a crazy family and partly a deeper philosophical reflection about the lack of attention to the needs of the world around us.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Fox

    Heartbreak House was not what I would consider the best of George Bernard Shaw's plays. The Preface, in particular, was difficult to get through, but after a time it began to get interesting. The idea of the play was to write about World War I from a civilian's perspective -- the point of view of one seeing the War as a novelty rather than the tragedy that it truly was. The play takes place over (two? one?) night at a country manor in the shape of a ship, symbolic of a leisurely Europe sailing into t Heartbreak House was not what I would consider the best of George Bernard Shaw's plays. The Preface, in particular, was difficult to get through, but after a time it began to get interesting. The idea of the play was to write about World War I from a civilian's perspective -- the point of view of one seeing the War as a novelty rather than the tragedy that it truly was. The play takes place over (two? one?) night at a country manor in the shape of a ship, symbolic of a leisurely Europe sailing into the new century. The play covers the mundane topics of everyday life in Britain in the time, various satirical references to the young lady's marrying for wealth and wealth alone. Each character is torn down to the bare minimum of what they are, ending in an amusing scene in which the "practical businessman" deigns it proper to strip bare since already he has been stripped to his mere morality. The play ends with shots being fired and bombs being dropped near the house, the War that nobody mentioned prior to this point in the play being brought home and perhaps knocking the unaware to their senses as to what really matters.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    This was an interesting blend of satire, drama, and political and social commentary. I saw this play performed at The Shaw Festival last season, and it was difficult enough to watch, let alone read. This is an experimental play. It starts out "normal" and then teeters into absurd, and then ultimately plummets into confusing. It's fascinating, and a few of the characters really stand out, but overall I found the play too confusing, a little preachy, and not as enjoyable as Shaw's other works (i.e This was an interesting blend of satire, drama, and political and social commentary. I saw this play performed at The Shaw Festival last season, and it was difficult enough to watch, let alone read. This is an experimental play. It starts out "normal" and then teeters into absurd, and then ultimately plummets into confusing. It's fascinating, and a few of the characters really stand out, but overall I found the play too confusing, a little preachy, and not as enjoyable as Shaw's other works (i.e. The Devil's Disciple and The Doctor's Dilemma). For an experimental play, I enjoyed Eugène Ionesco's The Bald Soprano a lot more. Heartbreak House has its moments, but it's not my favorite of Shaw's plays. I was a little disappointed.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is actually a play which I read for my 20th Century British Lit. class. I wrote 2 papers using Literary Theory (Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theories) using this text, so I have read and re-read this several times. It was enjoyable and full of wacky characters and weird situations. Taking place in the early 1900's in England during a time when they were involved in WWII. Shaw was against the war and known for being part of, and a big supporter of the Fabian Society.

  14. 4 out of 5

    J. Alfred

    Complete with an author's introduction almost as long as the text of the play, Shaw shows his astonishing capacity to be very angry, very humanistic, and very funny at the same time. He's like a more modern Dr. Swift. The play itself is funny at parts but verges off into the weird and depressing by the end. But then he's trying to write an allegory for English society in war time, so I suppose weird and depressing is the way to be.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Terence Manleigh

    This is one of my favourite Shaw plays -- a motley crew of English aristos gather and chatter blithely about their lives and loves until the bombs drop. Written just after the First World War, it's rather like Ravel's La Valse put in the form of a comedy of manners. Somehow Absurdist and Chekhovian at the same time, with that wonderful, ringing Shavian wit.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rani

    this is one of my favorite plays.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    story dragged - not that great

  18. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Kerrigan

    The Captain may be my favorite character in all of literature.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    I'm disappointed in you, GBS. Your plays are usually awesome. This was utter filth. It was like a mixture of Victorian melodrama and modern teen angst. You must have been in a very bad mood.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    quirky. Shaw at his best as a critic of Western hypocrisy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alyse

    A classic Shaw play dealing with humanity on the brink of war.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marissa

    George Bernard Shaw is notorious for writing lengthy prefaces to his plays, but all the same, I’m surprised that I enjoyed the preface to Heartbreak House more than the play itself. In the preface, Shaw excoriates the “war delirium” that took over the British public from 1914 to 1918, and gives me a better sense than I ever had before about what life was really like on the home front during World War I. (I had no idea there were German air raids on London in WWI – I thought that was only a WWII thing George Bernard Shaw is notorious for writing lengthy prefaces to his plays, but all the same, I’m surprised that I enjoyed the preface to Heartbreak House more than the play itself. In the preface, Shaw excoriates the “war delirium” that took over the British public from 1914 to 1918, and gives me a better sense than I ever had before about what life was really like on the home front during World War I. (I had no idea there were German air raids on London in WWI – I thought that was only a WWII thing!) He is also chillingly prescient about the way that the harsh peace terms imposed on Germany would lead to future destruction and conflict. But, wow, Heartbreak House is a bizarre play. (Sometimes my 3-star ratings mean “lukewarm appreciation,” sometimes they mean “I don’t know what to make of this”—this is an example of the latter.) It begins as an Edwardian comedy of manners, loosely centered around Ellie Dunn, a young woman who plans to marry for money after her plans to marry for love are thwarted. Oddly, while everyone thinks that twenty-something Ellie is much too young to marry a 55-year-old industrialist, no one thinks it’s strange that the man she originally fell in love with is himself 50 years old. In fact, it’s curious that there aren’t any young men in the play at all—the six male characters range in age from forty-something to 88. Is this supposed to be a commentary on how so many men of Ellie’s generation were killed in the war? But somewhere in Act Two—around the time Ellie knocks out her fiancé with amateur hypnotism, and a burglar with a unique modus operandi breaks in upstairs—it becomes clear that this isn’t your conventional country-house comedy. And I’d be hard-pressed to think of any other comedies of manners that end with bombs raining down on the characters as they sit outside chatting in the garden after supper. The play’s subtitle ("a fantasia in the Russian manner on English themes") shows that Shaw modeled it after Anton Chekhov plays like The Cherry Orchard ; I also think it makes an interesting companion piece to Howards End , E.M. Forster’s novel from 1910, which also involves a liberal, cultured young woman marrying a conservative, middle-aged businessman. However, Chekhov and Forster draw their characters, particularly the women, with tenderness and empathy—whereas I’m not sure that Shaw likes any of the Heartbreakers. He despises the male characters for their weakness, and despises the female characters for the cold-hearted way they seduce and manipulate these weak men. Act Two ends with a character lamenting “Oh, women, women, women! Fall, fall and crush.” So when the bombs do fall in Act Three, how can we not interpret them as a response to his misogynistic prayer? Other critics describe this as a play about the charming and self-absorbed pre-WWI gentry, but I don’t see the charm, only the self-absorption. If the country-house gentry are in decline, they are being superseded by the Boss Mangans of the world. This character is a businessman who has gone into politics, something that another character compares to “giving a torpedo to a badly-brought-up child to play at earthquakes with.” In 2018, lines like these do take on a chilling resonance. Still, I think that in order for the play to work, you’d need to feel a real sense of loss at the way the world of the cultured gentry is giving way to a world where power and force are the only things that matter. And, as I said, Shaw doesn’t seem to make the case that any of these characters are worth saving. You go into Heartbreak House thinking it may merely be a play about romantic disappointment—the conventional meaning of the word “heartbreak”—but leave it realizing that Shaw is using “heartbreak” in the sense of “the loss of all hope.”

  23. 4 out of 5

    Haoyan Do

    The only reason I give it a four-star is because it doesn't have a plot. However it's a very interesting play, not as absorbing as "The Devil's Disciple", but interesting nonetheless. Lady Utterword expresses her preference for a regular house several times, but her expression somehow enhances the allure of the heartbreak house. We probably all want to experience the heartbreak house, at least once in our life time. We probably can also call it the anarchy house where nothing is organized. Meal, The only reason I give it a four-star is because it doesn't have a plot. However it's a very interesting play, not as absorbing as "The Devil's Disciple", but interesting nonetheless. Lady Utterword expresses her preference for a regular house several times, but her expression somehow enhances the allure of the heartbreak house. We probably all want to experience the heartbreak house, at least once in our life time. We probably can also call it the anarchy house where nothing is organized. Meal, sleep arrangement, conversation all come in as if by impromptu impulse. I have been reading the preface, which is longer than the play itself and in many ways even more interesting than the clever banters in the play. Judging from the preface, I probably have misunderstood the play. The heartbreak house is all about the inadequacy of its inhabitants.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gabriella Vegvari

    Full of deeper meaning I'm sure but I've certainly enjoyed other Shaw plays much more. A long essay at the beginning which I'd need to be back at school to truly analyze and understand. Thankfully I'm no longer being marked on my comprehension so I can stay willfully shallow in my efforts as they relate to this piece. The book is read. The book is shelved.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Breann Barnett

    i read this in one sitting and loved it. i laughed out loud for some parts which is rare. this book will hold a special memory for me since i read this and got engaged the next day. thanks bernard

  26. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Heartbreak House is a good introduction to Shaw’s plays, boldly asserting his views. Although never subtle, Shaw became more skilled at the presentation of his ideas in later plays. Heartbreak House is in your face. The Preface is essentially a long editorial about World War I from a civilian’s perspective. Clearly this is an anti-war play: THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW HOW TO LIVE MUST MAKE A MERIT OF DYING Heartbreak house was far too lazy and shallow to extricate itself from this palace of Heartbreak House is a good introduction to Shaw’s plays, boldly asserting his views. Although never subtle, Shaw became more skilled at the presentation of his ideas in later plays. Heartbreak House is in your face. The Preface is essentially a long editorial about World War I from a civilian’s perspective. Clearly this is an anti-war play: THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW HOW TO LIVE MUST MAKE A MERIT OF DYING Heartbreak house was far too lazy and shallow to extricate itself from this palace of evil enchantment. It rhapsodized about love; but it believed in cruelty. It was afraid of the cruel people; and it saw that cruelty was at least effective. (15) Later, in anti-war statements, he remarks “The war did not change men’s minds in any such impossible way. What really happened was that the impact of physical death and destruction, the one reality that every fool can understand, tore off the masks of education, art, science, and religion from our ignorance and barbarism, and left us glorying grotesquely in the licence suddenly accorded to our vilest passions and most abject terrors.” (21) The house itself is in the shape of a ship symbolizing the transportation of Europe into the modern era, and the play is quite satirical in nature. Shaw unabashedly devastates each character, breaking them down into their essential natures. Shaw’s anti-business political philosophy is particularly apparent when describing the businessman who can’t strip because he is already stripped of his morality. The interaction between Lady Utterword, who is visiting her father The Captain after many years of absence, is devastating as he does not recognize her and disengages himself from her affections. In response to her pleas base on the fact that she is his daughter, he responds, “So much the worse! When our relatives are at home, we have to think of all their good points or it would be impossible to endure them. But when they are away, we console ourselves for their absence by dwelling on their vices. That is how I have come to think of my absent daughter Ariadne a perfect fiend; so do not try to ingratiate yourself here by impersonating her.” (56) In short, absence makes the heart grow colder, and we don’t naturally want to be close to our family members. How sad this thought is. The play tends toward the absurd, with the characters somewhat aware that they are stuck in a house that masks how bad reality really is. Ellie remarks later in her conversation with Mrs. Hushabye, “Theres something odd about this house, Hesione, and even about you. I dont know why I’m talking to you so calmly. I have a horrible fear that my heart is broken, but that heartbreak is not like what I thought it must be.” (72) The characters focus on individual sensibilities and ignore the larger reality of their situation. Captain Shotover, after justifying his pessimism to Hector and Mrs. Hushabye by explaining the disappointment in his daughter’s marriages, declines to turn on the light and expose his presence and states, “Give me deeper darkness. Money is not made in the light.” (91) Mangan notes that “the surest way to ruin a man who doesn’t know how to handle money is to give him some.” (95) Mangan responds to Lady Utterwood and Hector’s comments about his behavior by stating that there is something strange about this house, and that he is no better or worse in the house than in the city, but in the house he is made to look like a fool. Ellie responds, “Yes: this silly house, this strangely happy house, this agonizing house, this house without foundations. I shall call it Heartbreak House.” (151) In the end, the novelty of the war presents itself as no mere novelty, but reality. Captain Shotover when confronted by the burglar, stands and says, “Stand by, all hands for judgment.” (158) Reality comes home to Heartbreak House.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mac

    The preface to "Heartbreak House" is a somber reflection on the aftermath of World War I. Based on that, I was expecting a different kind of play than Shaw actually wrote. It's another in his line of "drawing room" comedies with various characters coming and going. It was enjoyable as far as it went, but I was expecting something more based on the context.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chandini

    This isn't one of my favorites of Shaw's. It's a good deal more farcical and less witty than I normally associate with Shaw. It's next to impossible to connect with any of the characters because they're such caricatures. I just don't see how this is supposed to be a clever of satire of polite British society. It's certainly a parody, but I'm not sure I'd call it clever overall. It does contain some gems of humor that seem wasted in this play though.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Realini

    Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw Not a smashing play For various reasons, I am not a fan of George Bernard Shaw. First of all, he was leaning to the left in politics. As far as I know, he went to the Soviet Union and instead of denouncing the communist policies he praised them. This is serious for someone who has lived under a communist regime and knows what they did, I strongly believe that Shaw and others like him – famous and influent people who had firsthand Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw Not a smashing play For various reasons, I am not a fan of George Bernard Shaw. First of all, he was leaning to the left in politics. As far as I know, he went to the Soviet Union and instead of denouncing the communist policies he praised them. This is serious for someone who has lived under a communist regime and knows what they did, I strongly believe that Shaw and others like him – famous and influent people who had firsthand knowledge of the soviet reality had a responsibility to reveal the truth. The fact that Shaw and Sartre – to name just these two- not only did not speak about the horrors committed in the Soviet Union, but even expressed admiration is despicable for someone like me. Then I think that Shaw was a bit of a …show off. I have seen televised images of the writer saying: - This is my left side; this is my back…front… Yes, Shaw was witty; he had verb and humor. But I agree with Maugham who said that Shaw and Ibsen benefited from circumstance and a favorable period. The themes that they concentrated on came to public attention. The emancipation of women and the rise of the new classes were at center stage just as Ibsen and Shaw wrote about them. There is obviously more to the plays of Shaw than just perfect timing, and the proof is that they have been well regarded even later. Pygmalion has inspired the hugely successful My Fair Lady. As for The Heartbreak House…it did not break my heart and I will forget about it in just a couple of days…

  30. 5 out of 5

    Metaphorosis

    reviews.metaphorosis.com 2.5 stars Ellie Dunn, invited to visit Hesione Hushabye, finds a bewildering crew of would-be lovers and husbands among the guests. In the course of the day, she finds out more about them and herself. There's quite a long and philosophical preface to this place, explaining why it wasn't published during the war (WW I), and giving Shaw a chance to lay out his views about capitalism, socialism, country society, and a range of other things. It's dated and not entirely cons reviews.metaphorosis.com 2.5 stars Ellie Dunn, invited to visit Hesione Hushabye, finds a bewildering crew of would-be lovers and husbands among the guests. In the course of the day, she finds out more about them and herself. There's quite a long and philosophical preface to this place, explaining why it wasn't published during the war (WW I), and giving Shaw a chance to lay out his views about capitalism, socialism, country society, and a range of other things. It's dated and not entirely consistent, but nonetheless interesting. In theory, it lays out exactly the message of the play that follows, but the play is rather more obscure in its presentation. The play itself is a mixed bag. The first act is quite funny, in a clever, sarcastic way. By the second act, the jokes and tricks are starting to wear a bit thin, while by the third, Shaw gives up on comedy and ventures into polemic by proxy. Unfortunately, he muddles his argument, and really clouds the waters by suddenly introducing the war, which until the final few pages is entirely absent. This is, according to the preface, part of his point, but  as a matter of writing, he presents it poorly. All in all, amusing and interesting. However, I suggest reading the play first, so that it stands on its own. Then read the preface, and see what you think.

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